Rite of Passage
by Nicole Freire
On Saturday my husband went to get his hair cut and took our eldest daughter along for company. They had been gone about 45 minutes when he called me. "She wants to get her hair cut too, something she saw in a picture?" I said "No, she and her sister just got their hair cut not two weeks ago, let's save the money, she doesn't need another haircut, I don't know what the picture looks like, blah blah blah."
He noted my objections and said, "Yeah, I'm going to let her get her hair cut."
I sighed, hung up the phone, and went back to my book.
An hour later I heard the car pull into the driveway. And through the closed front door and all the way into the back bedroom, I could already hear the sobbing.
I knew immediately what had happened. It's happened to every single woman I know. It was The Bad Haircut. Not only had she gotten TBH, she had lost almost 5 inches of hair.
My husband looked dazed. "I don't understand what happened! She liked the picture, I think it looks cute but she started crying………." He stopped and said, "Is this another girl hormone thing?"
Poor guy. As our eldest enters the untamed wilds of pre-adolescent puberty he has become increasingly rattled by the frequent bouts of crying, the screaming and yelling, the fighting with her sister, her preoccupation with the Jonas Brothers, the sudden need for skinny jeans, lip gloss, and expensive phone texting. I don't blame him; it's not always fun living with the rollercoaster ride of emotions that accompanies puberty. And with girls, that usually means lots of crying, crying that he can't fix.
I replied, "This is why I only let the girls get their hair cut maybe two inches at a time, so they don't freak out. It's The Bad Haircut. I'll deal with it."
I gently opened the door to her room. The shrieking only got louder. "I hate my hair! I hate it! I hate the hairdresser! It looks nothing like the picture! Why did I do this? I look ugly! I look like a boy! I'm never cutting it short again!"
I hugged her. Told her I thought it looked cute. More screaming and crying. I told her that it looked very chic, very grownup. The volume only got louder. Hey, I said, you can wear dangly earrings! More Kleenex was needed. I said, it looks very 1920's, very Louise Brooks! She looked at me as if I was speaking Latin and continued to cry.
Finally I told her the truth. Every woman has had The Bad Haircut. "You have?" she asked. Oh yes, I told her. When I was about her age, I too thought that a hairstyle I'd seen in a magazine would be cute on me. So I cut my hair short. And then cried for hours.
But her crying jag wasn't stopping anytime soon, so I let her be and headed straight for the phone.
Because in cases like this, you need to call in the troops. You need to call all the women you know and say, "Help me." Or in this case, "Help her."
The first call was to my sister. I left her a voicemail that went like this: "Hey, do you remember when we both got our hair cut in San Francisco? And you ended up with the weird futuristic haircut that made you look like you should be on Star Trek? The one that made you cry? Well, your niece just had her hair cut off. She has The Bad Haircut. Do you think you could call me back and talk to her? You know, maybe it will make her feel better?"
The next call was to my cousin (who has very short hair and looks fantastic with it). She was exhausted, had been trying to get her baby girl to nap for hours and so far, had been unsuccessful. I commiserated briefly and then said, "Hey, your second cousin just got The Bad Haircut. It's really short. She's freaking out. Lots of crying. Can you call me back and talk to her? Maybe emphasize how cool it is to be able to wear bigger earrings now? Maybe mention how much help hair gel can be? A hair dryer?"
I walked back into the room where The Bad Haircut was busy crying and handed my daughter the phone. "Your aunt and your second cousin will be calling you soon. Answer the phone and listen to them."
Then I went back to my book.
It's been almost three days now since The Bad Haircut. The crying has subsided and my husband doesn't look quite so freaked out now, although I don't think he'll be taking our girls to get their hair cut anytime soon. There are still moments of "I hate my hair!" but my calls for womanly assistance and sympathy paid off. My sister and my cousin both talked to my daughter. They listened, they offered advice, they told their own Bad Haircut stories, they suggested hair products, they said they'd help her style it, they told her that it would grow back.
I had told her those same things. But sometimes, just sometimes, when you have a crisis like The Bad Haircut, you need to reach out and ask for help from someone else.
And for the men out there, I'm sure you've had The Bad Haircut too, right? But if you doubt that every woman you know has had, at one time in her life, The Bad Haircut?
Just ask your wife, your girlfriend, your mother, your sister, your cousin, your coworker, the girl who makes your lattes at the coffee place you stop at every morning and say to them, "Hey, have you ever had a Bad Haircut? Did you ever cut your hair too short and then hate it? Did you cry?"
I am not making this up, this huge generalization. Ask a woman, any woman. And be prepared to listen. You might also want to carry some Kleenex on you, just in case. At the very least, make sure you tell them that right now? Their hair looks beautiful.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.